Mobile Phone Etiquette: Are you being rude?

Phone used at tableWe’ve all been there – hanging out with friends or family who seem more interested in updating their Facebook status than engaging in conversation with the person sat next to them.

And what about those who like to film every second on their phone, rather than just enjoy the moment?

Annoying isn’t it? But are you guilty of being inadvertently rude when you use your mobile phone? You might not even realise…

A recent Canstar Blue survey found that two in five Aussies often use their smartphone while in the company of friends or family – including at the dinner table. In fact, one in five of the 1,800 adults questioned have been so fixated with their phone that they’ve walked into someone while looking at it, rather than watching where they’re going.

Gen Y survey respondents were three times as likely as Baby Boomers to commit both mobile phone etiquette crimes, and women were noticeably worse offenders than men, we found.

Overall, about two thirds of those surveyed said they felt guilty for using their phone instead of paying more attention to the people they are with – which means a significant number couldn’t care less what other people think! But with 61% claiming they’d feel lost without their smartphone, maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised.

Are we losing our social skills?

Have we become too obsessed with technology, and is our rudeness – intentional or otherwise – an inevitable result?

Jocelyn Brewer, a psychologist who specialises in the way that technology impacts behaviour and society, says some people perceive what’s happening online to be more interesting, valuable and important, than what’s happening in real life (IRL). So does that mean we’re losing our social skills?

“There is a wealth of information and activity online and people may find there are more ‘rewards’ with the content online and in their phone than from communicating and being present to another person,” she said.

“It might have to do with the fact that people have a greater sense of belonging and the ability to contribute and track our contributions. For example, on social media, we post and then wait for likes and comments as positive reinforcement that we are funny, pretty or cool etc, so it becomes compulsive. We like to know what is going on socially as from an evolutionary perspective.

“Our social skills are not being lost, but they are changing. Social etiquette is a part of culture, and culture by its very nature changes – some aspects faster than others. There are good and bad aspects of those changes, and how widely they are accepted depends on a range of things. We don’t allow the use of phones while driving because it’s dangerous, but the use of phones while socialising might have impacts on our friendships and how deeply we relate to others.”

Phone used at dining tableOne person who doesn’t mind putting her smartphone first is Judy Sahay, director of Crowd Media HQ. She says her phone is simply too important to her career to ever switch off.

“As a businesswoman, I am constantly on the phone. My business is in digital media and we have to work around the clock, so I constantly get calls, emails and notifications on my phone pretty much from 7am till 11pm,” she said.

“So yes, there are occasions where I have used my phone at dinner tables, or meeting with friends and family. I guess the best way to get around this is to let those people know that you are expecting a call or email, so they are well prepared.

“My friends and family know me very well and at the early stage of the business, it does take priority. They know I’m not checking my phone because I’m bored, they know it’s part of my work so they are OK with it.”

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